Every duty station has its perks. As a military spouse always on the move, make it your job to fully explore each and every duty station you land at. Doing so helps you feel at home sooner and gives you a chance to see the best that your new area has to offer.
Once you get past the immediate to-do list of unpacking and finding work, start exploring your area ASAP. You won’t regret it.
This post covers things you should always do no matter where the military moves you. These ideas are meant to help you feel connected and rooted in your new military community.
You’ll find there’s really no “best” military base. It’s more of what you make of your time at each location that makes it the best in your experience.
Here’s a look at 15 ways to get comfortable at your newest duty station:
1. Go to an Orientation/Newcomer’s Brief
Whatever it’s called on your base, be sure to connect with your family support group to find out when the orientation on your base occurs. These sessions can be attended by service members and their spouses. You’ll learn more about your base and area and get a list of duty station resources to help you get plugged in sooner.
2. Look into Your Base’s Unique Amenities
From base to base, each one is different and offers little gems you won’t find elsewhere. Look for the little parks, trails, and entertainment opportunities that will keep you busy and out exploring. Even if you don’t live on base, make it a point to go at least once a week if it’s reasonable. It’s a great way to meet other spouses, too!
3. Check Out the Local USO
The USO isn’t just a place for stopping into when traveling through airports that happen to have their lounges. The USO has a ton of programs and entertainment available to active-duty families to enjoy. Many locations have monthly meetups for Bunco, coffee dates, and even couples’ seminars. Learn more about what the USO does here.
4. Buy Annual Passes
If you’re in an area near a relatively good-sized city, you can find all types of local attractions based on your interests. If you think you’d go enough, consider purchasing an annual pass for the attraction. Local art galleries, history museums, aquariums, zoos, parks, etc. often have annual passes so you can save some money each time you go. Don’t forget to use your military discount!
5. Make at Least One New Friend
This goes along with the whole getting on base once a week idea. You can’t really make friends if you stay inside and don’t go out and about. As sad as you may be about leaving old friends behind and settling into a new area, it gets better the more you socialize with others. Make it a goal to meet a new friend by the end of your first month or two after settling in.
6. Attend MWR Events
Benefits, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) benefits are some of the best ones you get as a military spouse. Take advantage of them at every duty station you go to! MWR is responsible for providing on-base programmings like bowling centers, movie theaters, concerts, dining, and low-cost travel opportunities. Need to work out? Use the free gym on the base provided by MWR funds. On weekends, heading to base to attend MWR events is a great way to meet other military couples who enjoy similar activities.
7. Check Out 10 Local Restaurants
With Yelp and all of the other fantastic review apps out there, you can easily find your new favorite place to grab grub. Between you and your spouse, select 10 restaurants to try before you get orders to leave the area. Don’t forget to ask for recommendations from the locals you encounter, too. Sometimes the best restaurants are hole-in-the-wall places you’d never think to go!
8. Meet Your Spouse’s Leadership
If you have the opportunity to engage with your spouse’s leadership, do it. There are plenty of events — promotion ceremonies, change of command, family events, etc. — that naturally offer the opportunity. Ask your spouse to introduce you to their favorite senior leadership.
9. Get a Base Tour
It’s easy to PCS to a new duty station and never really ever explore the base before you have to move again. Once you’re settled, see if your new duty station’s family support center offers formal tours of the base. If not, ask your spouse to take you around and show you the installation. Bases are generally a lot bigger — and more exciting — than you would think!
10. Visit the Area’s Top Attractions
Check out Yelp and the local travel visitor’s bureau to see what exciting things to do there are in your area. You wouldn’t want to travel all the way to the Pacific Northwest and never make it up to Mount Rainier National Park, for example. Talk with locals and ask about where they take their family when they come to visit. Then, make a plan to go see the area.
11. Get Involved
Whatever passion you had at your last duty station can likely be discovered at your new one, too. Sign up for whatever lights you up — art classes, dance lessons, cooking demos, flying lessons, etc. You don’t need to miss out on your beloved activities just because you moved. On-base, spouse clubs and Family Readiness Groups are another ideal way to meet fellow spouses.
12. Meet Your Neighbors
Get to know your neighbors. Chances are good you won’t be moving again for another few years. Go introduce yourself and make a new friend. This is especially helpful if you’re on base so you can build your little tribe right in the neighborhood in which you live. Plus, it never hurts to have someone keep an eye on your house when you’re out of town!
13. Don’t Rely on Your GPS
Too often we rely on our GPS to get us to and from where we need to go. One afternoon, get lost in your own backyard on purpose. Drive around aimlessly and see what fun little shops, beautiful green spaces, and funky restaurants you can find. This will also help you get familiar with the area. Pretty soon, you’ll know it like the back of your hand.
14. Support Local Businesses
One of the best parts of moving from duty station to duty station is seeing the local businesses that make up the area. Frequent these often as you will only be around them for a limited time before you uproot again. It helps you discover your favorite take-out place, businesses to buy gifts from, and genuine entrepreneurs who love their community. Don’t forget to buy yourself a trinket or ornament to remember the duty station by, too!
15. Say Hello to a New Family
When you see another moving truck rolling onto base, go say hi once they’ve had a few days to settle in. You can probably recall how hard it was to make friends at your new duty station. Even if they’re seasoned military folks, they’ll appreciate the warm welcome. Offer to give them a tour around town, too.
Your Duty Station is What You Make of It
This list could go on forever, but at the very least it’s a starting point for you to better immerse yourself in your new duty station culture.
Take the time to get to know your area, the locals, and fellow service members and their spouses. The more you develop solid friendships, the easier it is to call a temporary living situation “home.”
Your duty station will always be what you make of it. If you embrace the change as an exciting adventure instead of a curse, you’ll find the experience of moving to a new location more enjoyable.
Above all, keep an open mind and have fun!
What’s always on your duty station to-do list once you’ve let the dust settle from unpacking? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to know what other “technical stuff” you should think about after PCSing? Check out our post 7 Priorities Military Spouses Should Set After a PCS Move.
Feature image courtesy of U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria Boyton